Unicycling and improved core strength

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As I often say, even if unicycling didn’t have any unique benefits beyond improved balance, I’d still do it because of how much fun it is. Us unicyclists often like to tout unicycling as a great way to strengthen the core, though there hasn’t been a lot of hard scientific data to support this.

Until now. Last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, they did a study on the effect of unicycling on the trunk strength of children. They concluded:

Unicycling proved to be an effective and funny tool to develop proximal stability and strength, which prevents low back pain and improves the efficiency of energy transfer between body segments.

This is just one study, but it is terrific news. Hurray for unicycling! I admit I am very biased. Better core strength is often associated with better athletic performance in many sports, including running. Though this study was done on children, I can’t think of any reason this wouldn’t apply to adults, and it’s too bad they didn’t study juggling while unicycling. So if you want to strengthen your core, consider taking up unicycling!


Review of “The Age of Genius: The 17th Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind”

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19th-century painting depicting Galileo Galilei displaying his telescope to Leonardo Donato in 1609



I just finished reading A.C Grayling’s “The Age of Genius: The 17th Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind”.

This book covers a lot of territory in 324 pages. In summary, it’s about how the scientific revolution of the 17th century amidst the tumult of religious war resulted in humans coming to see the world very differently at the end of that century compared to the beginning.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the educated elite of Europe still believed in geo-centrism; by the year 1700, most of the educated elite believed the earth revolved around the sun, among other things.

One of Grayling’s most controversial assertions is that the 30 years war(1618 – 1648) acted as a midwife of the birth of the modern mind. This war was the most destructive in European history until World War I. Millions of people were killed as a result of the 30 Years War, mostly in Germany(which was then called the “Holy Roman Empire”, a loose confederation of German-speaking states primarily divided by religion) where it is estimated that 1 in 3 Germans perished. Many other historians and philosophers disagree with Grayling, believing this war greatly hindered scientific and social progress.

Grayling argues that however devastating this war was, it greatly weakened the Catholic church which had long suppressed free-inquiry, which is essential for science. Wars can also have a direct effect on material science, as rivals figure out how to better engineer weapons(he makes an analogy with the vast improvement of rocketry during World War II by the Germans).

Grayling also argues that the scientific advances of that era were essential for or at least concomitant with social and philosophical advances that led to modern secular democratic states. It just makes sense that if humans are no longer assumed to be at the center of the universe, lots of other erroneous assumptions can also be questioned and pushed aside, including the divine right of kings. This kind of thinking played a huge role in the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. This paradigm shift also paved the way for Darwin’s theory of evolution in the mid 19th century which put an end to the idea that humans are God’s special creation(as I said before, this book is like a prequel of Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”).

One little thing that surprised me was the author’s contention that the scientific revolution influenced language, particularly English, French and German. The clarity and precision required for scientific thinking and writing also influenced language in general, according to the author. He even contrasts the long-winded, opaque writing of English authors of the early 17th century with the more clear, economical writings of late 17th century authors to make his point(also remarking that one of the things classicists of the era most admired about ancient Greek and Latin writers was their directness and clarity).

One thing that surprises many people is how practically all the early scientists who launched the scientific revolution were not only very religious but were also alchemists or occult enthusiasts forever searching for the elusive Philosopher’s Stone. Doing real science was more like a side project for some of them. I was already aware of this(in particular when it comes to Newton), but he goes into great detail about how much science had to disentangle itself from alchemy and pseudoscience to become science as we practice it today.

Toward the end of the book, while Grayling celebrates the triumph of scientific rationalism, he warns about attempts at reversing the progress we’ve made since the scientific revolution and Enlightenment. Reason and free speech are under assault, and not just by the religious but by political extremists. I’d also add that the “new age” and various pseudoscience movements are also a threat.

All in all, a good book if you’re into the history of ideas and understanding how the world came to be the way it currently is.

What I’ve learned from 2 years of unicycling

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Me juggling while idling on a unicycle, a very difficult skill to master

I’ve been unicycling now for over 2 years, and what an adventure it has been! Here are some things I’ve learned over these 2 years:


Most learning is subconscious

When learning a new skill(going backwards, idling, juggling while idling, etc), it’s critical to use the right technique or in the very least not do things that will impede your progress. While we all may use a different learning method, we should observe some general guidelines, especially early on.

As important as these guidelines are, they are not written in stone. Through trial and error we may occasionally find it helpful to ignore certain guidelines. It can be frustrating when we hit upon a technique variation that seems to work but later on doesn’t. If we’re persistent enough we improve, though we’re often not sure why. This is because so much of the learning is happening at a subconscious level, to the extent that it’s very difficult to describe or replicate what we are doing that is leading to success instead of failure. This is largely due to muscle memory and that practicing the same thing over and over again forces our body to do it more efficiently.

This isn’t all that unique to unicycling since it happens when learning just about anything. However, it’s because learning new unicycling skills is so bewilderingly difficult and complicated at first that every little improvement is celebrated as a victory. While we all have an innate sense of proprioception(the sense of where we are in space which helps with balance), unicycling will lead to a quantum leap improvement in this ability to the extent that we feel like we have acquired super-powers. This is why unicycling is so uniquely enjoyable.

Taking breaks can help you improve

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was going to be rusty after a break but instead got better. I am not saying you shouldn’t be persistent, but rather that after practicing on a consistent basis, a break of a few days to a week may be helpful, besides taking off one day a week(or whatever works for you).

Finding the magic formula to ensuring breaks will be helpful is interrelated with figuring out what is the ideal of amount of practice time. It varies from person to person, and more isn’t necessarily better. We probably all notice that there are diminishing returns to going beyond a certain amount of practice time, and that excessive practice can lead to burnout or extreme frustration.

This is why one day off a week from unicycling may be better than doing it 7 days a week, and anything more than a few hours of practice a day is unlikely to be helpful.

Besides providing rest, a day or a week off may help your brain and muscles properly assimilate what it has learned, and practicing excessively may interfere with this assimilation. This is why occasionally taking time off may be more helpful than detrimental to getting better at unicycling, or anything for that matter.

Variation is the key to improving

You practice the same thing every day, with the same unicycle at the same place at the same time and you’re noticing very little to no improvement. We all know the cliche that “practice makes perfect”, but some of us(myself included) get stuck on a learning plateau and we’re not sure why. Again, this is not unique to unicycling. Besides taking the occasional break, practicing subtle variations may help us improve.

What do I mean by variation? By playing around with tire pressure, or putting in different size cranks, or simply practicing with a different unicycle altogether. I’ve experimented with different tire pressures while learning to go backwards and would often notice significant improvements after a few days of variations. I’ve also tried carrying(not juggling) heavy balls to increase the challenge. Also changing locations can sometimes be helpful.

The reason this probably works is because these variations force our brains to discover the essence of a skill by feeding it unique data points it otherwise wouldn’t have access to if we practiced the same exact way every day. In this sense it is kind of related to cross-training.

Think of all the ways you can vary your routine. It doesn’t have to make learning much more difficult, but it should be different enough so that it feels new or a little awkward at first. One approach I’ve often found helpful is to warm up with a variation or something different, then I practice what I usually practice. Sometimes it’s a short trail ride with the municycle, then a long practice session juggling while idling with my freestyle unicycle.

*  *  *

Unicycling is not just a lot of fun, it offers so many different fitness benefits without breaking the bank. Like I’ve said before it’s great cross-training for runners and offers similar fitness benefits. It also forces you to pay close attention to your body and all its asymmetries and quirks, like yoga or dance. Besides this, taking up unicycling is a great way to learn about learning.


The Attraction of Unicycles: A Lesson for Learning Complex Skills

How to Unicycle Backwards




Veganism and multi-level marketing

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It’s the new and improved veganism taking social media by storm. It’s no longer just about animals, or about health, it’s about riches beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is join the right team and watch the money start flowing like Niagara Falls into your bank account. And it only takes a tiny sign-up fee to get started! Or at least that’s what the “vegan” wealth gurus of social media want you to believe.

So a blog post about veganism and multi-level marketing(MLM) aka network marketing? What’s going on here? The two seem worlds apart but if you’re a vegan and you’ve been on social media lately you’ve likely encountered someone claiming to be a vegan pushing some product or an “amazing” MLM “business opportunity” that they can’t stop talking about. This used to be a rare occurrence for me, but much to my annoyance I have been experiencing a lot more of it over the past year; this is what inspired me to write this post. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MLM, it’s a business strategy that’s all about endlessly bothering everyone you know to either join the scheme or buy from you so they can bother everyone they know to join the scheme, ad infinitum.

It’s for good reason that MLMs are often considered pyramid schemes with better lawyers. Research shows that almost no one except those at the top of the pyramid make any money. These schemes often target the most desperate and vulnerable people with promises of riches, with representatives encouraged by up-lines to use a “fake it till you make it” approach, complete with fancy cars and lavish vacations to lure people in. Many people are so badly burned by these scams that they end up filing for bankruptcy. Besides this, they may end up feeling like failures because they believe they either didn’t do it right or they realize they’ve fallen for a scam and are too embarrassed to admit it. As if this wasn’t bad enough, MLM reps often become increasingly alienated from friends and family when they can no longer tolerate the non-stop scam promotion.

It’s disturbing witnessing people who claim to be vegan engaging in this sort of unethical, predatory behavior. This can damage our movement in myriad ways. Besides inflicting financial harm on individual vegans, it also hurts the credibility of the movement and has the potential to drive people out of it. And the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement is not just an online phenomenon, since MLM companies will often set up shop at vegan fests around the world. Our movement in general and our fests in particular need better quality control, lest the word “vegan” become utterly meaningless or a synonym for pseudo-science and chicanery(rampant pseudo-science in the vegan movement is something I’ve addressed before).

Vegans involved in animal activism and education know how difficult it can be to raise money to fund our efforts. Credibility is everything when it comes to activism and charity. People want to know where their money is going and how much of an impact it is making. It should go without saying that for activist groups to look like they have any kind of connection with a scam is a huge credibility killer(many MLMs will donate to charities to improve their reputation). Fortunately, this isn’t a big problem for most activist groups, at least not yet, but those of us concerned about the credibility of the vegan movement should be extra vigilant when it comes to MLMs trying to infiltrate it.

MLMs and other charlatans through their actions dilute the meaning of veganism, sometimes to the point that it’s only about healthy living, or for MLM-bots, healthy living + financial independence. Animal rights are pushed aside, or if they are considered at all, the “cruelty-free” label is similarly diluted. Some MLM cosmetics companies will even falsely claim their products are “cruelty-free” when they’re not: Presenters – You Need To Stop Telling Customers That Younique is Cruelty-Free, Now.

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False health claims promising perfect health or increased energy are the typical siren songs of many MLM-bots, both vegan and non-vegan. Many vegans, fed up with mainstream medicine, are drawn to the MLM-bots and their “natural” cures. If they are struggling with their new vegan lifestyle, they may seek help from an MLM-bot out of desperation, instead of going to a qualified health professional. “Failure to thrive” is a lot more common among vegans than many vegan advocates care to admit, and is probably the main reason there are many ex-vegans out there. I believe a lot of this “failure to thrive” related attrition is due to the bad advice I see floating around on social media like thick smog around a large industrial city, which MLM-bots are big contributors to. Fortunately, critical thinking can help blow away some of this dense smog of misinformation.

This very toxic nexus of quackery, greed, and deception is radioactive to social networks. The damage it could do to the vegan community is incalculable. Just imagine you’re a non-vegan and you see this kind of thing. Especially if the non-vegan knows anything about science. Vegans are often scorned enough as it is by mainstream society, but add MLM to the mix and it looks positively nauseating. And I’ve barely touched upon the cult-like nature of many MLMs and the extremely tacky “look at all the money I’m making” videos and social media posts MLM-bots often make.

It’s time we do something about this infiltration before it thoroughly poisons our movement. Don’t buy MLM products, report MLM-bots on social media, alert charities if it looks like they are associated with an MLM or other scam, and get involved with the scam-buster and growing anti-MLM movement. Besides this, complain to vegan fest organizers if you notice MLM company representatives hawking their products at the event. Remember, for many attendees this may be their first time being exposed to veganism on a large scale. If they have a negative opinion of MLM as most people do, this may make them less likely to want to go vegan.

Just because someone says they are “vegan” and uses the #vegan hash-tag doesn’t mean they really are vegan or they are doing it for the right reasons. Fake friends are worse than obvious enemies. Don’t be misled into thinking that if so-called vegans are involved with an MLM company, it must be one of the “good” MLMs. We need to declare loud and clear that get-rich-quick schemes and supplement scams have no place in our community. As our movement continues to grow we need better quality control to ensure we’re all on the same page about what veganism really stands for. The credibility and potential of our movement is at stake and by extension the lives of millions of animals. Standing for ethics and good science shouldn’t be the exception, but should be the very foundation of our movement.

Have you had a negative experience with an MLM or a vegan MLM-bot in particular, or are you just concerned about the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Related articles:

Why I Hate Multi-Level Marketing

MLM and Social Media

Younique’s Animal Testing Statement; Not 100% Cruelty-Free

The Biggest Scam in the Fitness Industry

MLM and Appeal to Consequences Fallacy: If MLM is illegal, then why hasn’t it been shut down?

Vemma Agrees to Ban on Pyramid Scheme Practices to Settle FTC Charges

What do I do with hummus?

Going vegan can be bewildering for many people. You’re discovering all these enticing new foods, and you have no idea what to do with them. In particular, you’re seeing hummus everywhere but have no idea what to do with it.

Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas, garlic and tahini that is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used in many different ways. There are countless varieties of hummus, some that are very lemony, some more garlicy, and some that are very spicy.

While many people just use it as a dip for chips or bread as an appetizer, you can make some delicious, more elaborate meals from it.

Here’s some suggestions.

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A hummus-chickpea-arugula wrap: Just use a tortilla wrap or pita bread and stuff it with hummus, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, harissa(Tunisian hot pepper sauce), olives, fresh parsley, lemon juice and black pepper. The hummus is there, it just got buried under all the other ingredients. Not only is this very tangy and delicious, it’s also very nutritious.

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Not in the mood for a wrap? Another suggestion is to make a hummus platter with stuffed grape leaves(dolma), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Another delicious, easy to make(unless you make the dolma from scratch) Middle Eastern meal that’s totally vegan.

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with hummus, and Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegans. Have fun!

Paine to Pain 2017 Race Report

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Nearly two weeks ago I completed the Paine to Pain trail half-marathon, my second official half-marathon. It wasn’t that much different from last year except that I didn’t juggle this time and it was warmer and it rained a little. Obviously, not juggling is part of the reason I completed the race in 1:50, 11 minutes faster than last year. However, I did juggle while training, and even did a little joggling while warming up before the race. It seems not juggling during this race disappointed some spectators who had expected me to juggle.

I really love this race. It’s so steeped in history and celebrates Thomas Paine, one of the few Founding Fathers strongly opposed to slavery, among other progressive stances. This was the 10th anniversary of the race, it has become something of a New Rochelle tradition.

So why didn’t I juggle this time? I was concerned about having a mishap on the narrow, rocky trail, but I also wanted to see how much faster I would be without juggling. Though I didn’t fall last year, I did drop the balls 4 times and came close to spraining my ankle. This year I did trip a few times but didn’t fall to the ground since I quickly regained my footing.

The race started at 9, but since most of this race takes place on a rocky, narrow trail there are different waves that start at different times. I was in wave 3. Much of mile 1 was on the street, but once you’re on the trail it is wickedly rocky and hilly. I took it easy for the first few miles, but after this started passing a lot of runners whenever the trail allowed for it.

Even when I’m not joggling, I’m joggling: My arms still automatically make a juggling motion while running because they’re so used to juggling while running. This is hardly a problem and fortunately nothing trains you to have perfect running form more than joggling. For this reason, adding joggling to your training regimen may prove beneficial even if you don’t plan on doing it at races. I’m not sure if all the unicycling I do helps with form or balance while running, but it probably helps push my cardiovascular fitness to the max without having to worry about a running overuse injury.

Several miles in, the crowd of runners thins out and I started picking up the pace. This big, rocky hill in Saxon woods slowed me down a little, but I continued to pass more runners. In some parts of the woods the summer greenery is holding out, but in others the dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn are working their magic.

Midway in I felt terrific. I was wet both from my sweat and from the drizzle, and I was still getting faster. Approaching Twin Lakes I was in very familiar territory, I could almost run it blindfolded. Then next thing we know, the finish line is only 2 miles away, and I grab my last cup of water from the aid station. I went all out until the end. My fastest mile was mile 12, a 6:56/mile pace; although my legs felt strong and I felt great otherwise, I felt a little nauseous running so fast. Average pace for the entire race was 8:13/mile.

It felt a little awkward crossing that finish line without juggling but what a glorious feeling it was. My recovery is going well so far. Representing Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

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Unicycle ride from City Hall to Coney Island

I am sorry I haven’t posted in a long time. Certain life issues made regular blogging difficult. Now that these have been mostly resolved I am back to updating you on my latest athletic adventures, tips on vegan living, and occasional random stuff.

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Last Friday, I completed my first ever group unicycle ride, riding 12 miles from City Hall to Coney Island for the Brooklyn portion of the NYC Unicycle Fest. This involved unicycling across the crowded Brooklyn Bridge, my first time ever unicycling across it. It was an amazing experience, and wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Though this wasn’t a race, my training over the past several months paid off and I didn’t feel wasted at the end. It helped that we took several big breaks. Thank you Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for organizing this event and for your volunteers who made sure we went in the right direction.

This event was scheduled for 3:00 PM, and so I arrived at City Hall at 2:30, having unicycled part of the way down there along the East river from Grand Central Station. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day — though still technically summer, it went up to only 70 F with low humidity. It felt both strange and wonderful approaching City Hall and seeing so many unicyclists, about 47 of them, getting ready to take on Brooklyn. I’m always unicycling alone, but here was my tribe, so many different ages and ability levels and wildly different personalities. But here we are all united by our love of riding unicycles.

I brought my 29″ road unicycle for this ride, and so did a bunch of other unicyclists. I was expecting to see mostly 36″ inch unicycles considering the distance, but was surprised by all the 24″ unicycles. I made small talk with a few of the riders and before I knew it it was time to start our quest for to Coney Island. I was a little nervous at first because of how crowded it was, and kept thinking I would bump into someone or someone would bump into me. Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

So we all mounted our unicycles and started to climb the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Since I ride on hilly terrain almost every day, this was like nothing to me, but it was challenging for some of the other riders. I was more concerned about bumping into some careless tourists than getting wiped out by the ascent. We basked in the lovely sea breeze while unicycling across the historic bridge and many tourists and pedestrians were excited by the seemingly endless parade of unicyclists. A few bicyclists on the other hand seemed annoyed.

Going across, it felt less and less like Manhattan and more and more like Brooklyn. Hello Brooklyn! I felt elated making it to the Brooklyn side without a hitch(it reminded me of the time I flawlessly joggled across many years ago), and so did the sub-group of unicyclists I was with. Once on the other side and across the street we had our first break. I talked some more with Jeff about his unicycling experiences, then had a conversation with Chris, who I ran into nearly 2 months ago up in the wilds of Yorktown in northern Westchester on the North County Trail when we were unicycling in opposite directions(he was doing his first century ride, wow!). He told me he hasn’t been riding much these days, and that he still has trouble mounting the 36″ he had with him. I admit to being a little envious of his 36″ because of how much faster it is than my 29″, but I think I would also have serious trouble mounting such a large wheel.

After waiting for the slower unicyclists to catch up, we were off. It was a little scary unicycling through the streets of downtown Brooklyn, but I soon got used to it. Since a lot of people were on vacation that weekend, the traffic isn’t as heavy as it usually is. Amazingly, I found that I could idle(staying in place on the unicycle by quickly pedaling back and forth) at some of the traffic stops. I can idle proficiently on my 24 inch unicycle but usually have trouble doing it on my 29 inch. We soon found ourselves cycling through the streets of Parkslope, an upscale area full of trendy restaurants, boutiques, cafes and lots of onlookers who were delighted by the unicycle parade. Even in New York, a large group of unicyclists cruising through the streets isn’t something you see every day.

At Grand Army Plaza(mile 4) at the northern end of Prospect Park we had our next break and first group photo at the memorial arch. I talked a little more with Chris and drank some of the juice I had with me.21314811_1594702827216762_8372208298688654356_n

After the break we rode south through Prospect Park, by far the easiest part of this journey since there were no cars or traffic lights to worry about. I even took a video during this section, it was that easy. And it seems many people in the park were taking pictures or videos of us. I easily could have juggled while riding at this point, but I didn’t bring my balls with me. Another short break at the southern end of the park, and then we were back on the streets of Brooklyn heading south toward the Atlantic ocean.

We made our way to Ocean Parkway which takes us straight to Coney Island and has a wide bike path that’s separate from the walking path and used this for most of the rest of our southward ride.

The ethnic and religious diversity along this route was amazing. This is what makes NYC and the U.S in general such a wonderful and dynamic place. Russians, Chinese, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Indians, Caribbean islanders and Middle Easterners were all happy to see us and very supportive of our unicycle parade. The further south we went, the more Russian it got(a lot of these Russian-speakers aren’t ethnically Russian but they speak Russian because they’re from a former Soviet republic).

We didn’t have to worry about traffic except at the cross streets, and although this wasn’t a race it sure felt like one when we would frantically try to beat the light before the traffic blocked us. I was still able to idle when I had to stop, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, but it started causing soreness in my upper thigh because I’m not used to idling on such a large wheel.

A few miles from completion and we could feel the sea breeze again and the sweet smell of the mighty ocean. Or was that the sweet smell of success? In my mind I was thinking how I had yet again nearly accomplished something that not too long ago I would have thought impossible. Though this wasn’t my longest ride(I unicycled for 20 miles a few months ago on a rural bike path), it was the most challenging long unicycle ride.

Finally, we made it to Coney Island in front of Nathan’s. What an incredible journey it was! I felt like I could have unicycled for another 10 miles, my legs were certainly up to it. It was such a festive atmosphere on Coney Island with all the revelers, the lights, the rides and games, the perfect place to celebrate this achievement. All in all, was very happy with my City Hall to Coney Island ride experience. I think unicycling through Brooklyn is the best way to experience it.

Like last year, I’m joggling and unicycling for Team Humane, any support is appreciated.


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3 types of people who are ruining social media – and what you can do about them

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Social media plays an increasingly important role in many people’s lives around the world. It’s not just a great way to stay connected with people you already know, it’s also a terrific way to make new connections with people who share your interests. For some people in isolated areas or with rare hobbies, it is the only way to connect with others.

Unfortunately, there are many people who use social media as an opportunity to abuse or scam others.

I admit it was a little difficult deciding how many troublesome types I wanted to list; I settled on 3 since these 3 broad categories include a lot of sub-types. These 3 groups are by no means mutually exclusive, so you may have the misfortune of running into that rare specimen who is all 3. In no particular order, here they are:

The Multi-level marketer

Practically everyone is familiar with the multi-level marketer(MLM) AKA network marketer, and their spiel about financial independence, being on a permanent vacation, and making money from home, among other things. What makes them so annoying is that this is all they ever talk about and they are always looking to recruit you, so you can recruit everyone you know, so they can recruit everyone they know, and so on. And of course you make money from everyone you recruit as well as everyone they recruit. Sounds like a pyramid scheme, right? That’s because it is!

Almost everything the network marketer tells you is a lie. Don’t believe anything they say in their promotional videos or postings about how they have money coming out of their ears, their eyes and their, never mind. Studies show that over 90% of the people who get recruited by these pyramid schemes lose money.

What really makes network marketers a pain on social media is their nasty habit of infiltrating a wide variety of groups, clubs and chats for the sole purpose of trying to recruit others. All too often, and depending on how successful their infiltration is, they can have a poisonous effect on the group, resulting in division and conflict.

Besides this, MLMbots that deal in supplements frequently make dubious and at times dangerous health claims for their products. Here’s an example of an MLMbot pushing some juice product that according to them has miraculous healing powers:


What to do about them: I always block any multi-level marketer who follows me. If someone I follow becomes a multi-level marketer, I quickly unfollow and block.

People who are fed up with MLM spreading like wildfire and burning their friends and family on social media are increasingly taking a stand against it. The extreme sleaziness, dishonesty and cult-like nature of MLM pushers has inspired a growing and vibrant anti-MLM movement on the Internet.

As part of its tireless anti-MLM campaign, Timeless Vie has recently launched an MLM-free logo for businesses and groups to use to declare themselves MLM-free. This means a zero tolerance policy when it comes to MLM in their group or business. Try pushing MLM as a member of their group and you get the boot.

Besides Timeless Vie, there’s Ethan Vanderbuilt, another crusader against scams in general and MLM in particular. Be sure to follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter. Other anti-MLM sites to check out include MLM Syndrome, which is devoted to exploring MLM psychological conditioning, and also Lazy Man and Money, a consumer advocacy site which also frequently exposes MLM. Also check out The Not Quite Fairy-Tales of Elle Beau blog, for insights from an ex-MLM-bot turned MLM critic.

Understand that trying to convince an MLMbot that they are involved in a scam is pointless. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Educate yourself and spread the word!

The Bully

It’s difficult to overstate how big of a problem cyber-bullying is. It is a plague on social media to the extent that some people who have been victims of bullying have canceled their social media accounts. We’ve all either been on the receiving end of it or know someone who has. Cyber-bullying can take many forms: insults, threatening messages, defamatory smears or even attempts at ruining a person’s reputation. The 2 biggest motivations for bullying are the bully simply gets their kicks from putting people down, and the other is to get someone they disagree with to shut up.

Many bullies think their insulting remarks are the height of comedy. Some may even claim to be “comedians”. Sadly, there are online forums where this vile behavior is encouraged. All-too-common misogynistic bullies revel in making insulting remarks about a woman’s intelligence or looks. Some women-haters even go as far as to make constant rape or death threats against their intended targets. It’s a similar situation with racist bullies and bullies that target religious minorities and people with special needs.

In the political and media arena, it’s not uncommon for bullying tactics to be used against political opponents. If an activist, politician, or political operative has a large enough social media following, it’s relatively easy to inspire their followers to harass an opponent to silence them. If the harassment is persistent enough, this tactic can unfortunately be very effective. Even well-respected scientists have been cowed into silence by this ploy.

When called out for their behavior, it can be nauseating watching a serial harasser and their defenders claim their execrable actions are protected by the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to hurt others or destroy reputations. Whether or not the bullying you’re experiencing is a prosecutable offense can vary by country and jurisdiction. If you are being victimized, know your rights.

The best way to deal with bullies and harassers is to block and report. Do not interact with bullies, or attempt to get an apology, since this will only encourage them. Use anti-virus/malware software in case the bully turns to hacking, and be extra careful with passwords. Call the police about stalking, death threats or rape threats, consult lawyers about defamation.

For more information about how to deal with this, visit the National Bullying Prevention Center, and Stand for the Silent. For more information on sexual harassment: Sexual Harassment on the Internet.

Get involved and know your rights!

The Faker

It’s hardly a startling revelation that a very large number of people, probably a majority, tell white lies about themselves online and off. Most of the time this is probably harmless, but at least a few people take lying about themselves to such an incredible level of deceit that their entire online persona and reputation is built on nothing but lies. This, my friends, is the creature known as the Faker.

There is a significant amount of overlap between the multi-level marketer and the Faker. Just about all the multi-level marketers you encounter online are essentially Fakers, pretending they’re making a ton of money, pretending the products they are pushing are unique, top-of-the-line products, and perhaps most importantly, pretending to be your friend.

But not all fakers online are promoting pyramid schemes; indeed, some aren’t even interested in money, so this deserved it’s own category.

There’s a bewildering number of sub-categories of Fakers crawling around social media these days, it would be difficult to do justice to this subject. So I decided to narrow it down to two sub-types, due to the number encounters I’ve had with them over the years. These two sub-types are fake athletes and disease fakers.

For obvious reasons, the fake athletes I am most familiar with are fake runners. Every now and then while reading a running site or on social media, a story pops up about a runner who has been exposed as a fake, or someone a lot of people are suspicious about.

What these fake runners who fake their way to marathon or ultra-running glory all seem to have in common is this extreme desire to become famous. They are so desperate to turn their name into a valuable brand they will invent stories out of whole cloth about incredible distances they’ve run day after day, while providing scant evidence for their athletic feats. It’s no surprise that they will often buy followers on social media to make themselves look a lot more famous than they really are.

Astonishingly, some of these con-artists often manage to not just attract a cult following, they also become sponsored, and will sometimes run for a charity. Skeptics who ask questions are routinely demonized by the Faker and his rabid followers.

A little detective work and the fake runner is exposed; like a pin pricking a big balloon, he is quickly deflated. All but a tiny number of his followers abandon him and the sponsors run as far away from him as possible. Instead of fame, all the fake runner has achieved is a permanently damaged reputation before fading away into oblivion.

If you suspect a headline generating runner of being faker, a great place to report this is Let’s Run. The Let’s Run community has exposed a bunch of fake runners over the years. Marathon Investigation is another good site for reporting cheats.

Of all the things a person can do to get attention, faking disease is arguably the lowest. Keep in mind that not all disease fakers are in it for the money, some just want the attention.

Disease fakers have a method of infiltrating groups either related to the disease they are pretending to have or something entirely different. They will tell one lie after another in their game of emotional manipulation to make you pity them. Unless these people made big news and attracted a lot of donations, it can be difficult to expose their con. If the more skeptically-minded start asking questions, they may start to claim they are very close to death.

If you suspect anyone of faking a disease, be on the look out for any inconsistencies. If one catastrophic event happens one right after the other, be very suspicious. If they have trouble answering simple questions, they are very likely a faker. Just ignore and block them. It’s not a good idea to try to publicly expose them unless they are asking for money.

These fakers poison social media by making everyone who has dealt with them a lot more cynical and apprehensive. Add bullies and the multi-level marketing zombies to the mix, and social media looks like a very depressing place where you can’t trust anyone. However, by being very selective of who you follow, and knowing how to effectively deal with negative or dishonest people on social media, it can still be a valuable resource.

Have you dealt with these types of people before? What type of people do you consider to be the most troublesome on social media, and how do you deal with them?

Related article:

MLM and Social Media


Vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins recipe


One silver lining of all the nasty weather we’ve been experiencing lately is that I have more time to bake. Everyone who knows me knows I love blueberries, so what could be better than baking my own whole grain blueberry muffins that are not only perfect for breakfast but also a great snack? The combination of blueberries and a little maple syrup makes these just sweet enough to be enjoyable by most, though probably not sweet enough to be a dessert treat. A good source of protein, fiber and so fruity and spicy, they’re a great way to start the day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds(egg replacer/thickener)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/8 cups soy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries(fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  1. Preheat over to 375F
  2. Combine all wet ingredients into 1 bowl and mix thoroughly, adding blueberries last(for this recipe I made a puree of about half the blueberries with my blender and the rest were whole, but this is optional).
  3. Combine dry ingredients into 1 bowl and mix
  4. Now combine all dry and wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
  5. Scoop the batter into muffin cups in muffin tray, about 3 tablespoons each, or enough to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the muffin cups
  6. Put in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F until muffins are golden brown or you can smoothly stick a toothpick in and out of the muffins without any difficulty
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

This should be enough to make 10 large muffins. Feel free to add a little more spice if you like muffins extra spicy. To make them even tastier, you can add vanilla if you want. Similar recipes I’ve seen also include lemon or orange zest(or even orange juice or apple juice), or even apple cider vinegar, all of which I see as optional.

The batter consistency should be thick, but if you find it a little too thick and hard to work with, add a little more soy milk. If it’s too liquidy, add more flour. These came out better than expected though I think I’ll add more spice next time. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report


On November 20th I completed the Brooklyn Marathon, my second time joggling this race and fifth marathon overall. I had a decent race experience overall, even if I finished slower than the first time. My training and just about everything leading up to the big day were pretty much flawless, except that I may have over-trained. This time I ran as part of Team Humane, to help raise money for the Humane League. I admit it feels a little different joggling as part of a team. I felt like I wasn’t just doing it for me anymore, and that my first 4 marathons were warm-ups for this race.

Part of me is surprised I’ve completed 5 marathons; it wasn’t so long ago that I thought I would never be able to complete 1 marathon as a runner. Yes, while just running, not joggling! The pre-marathon me seems like a different person. I’m not sure who he was, but he disappeared when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. Now let’s explore marathon #5.

Race day was cold, cloudy and brutally windy. The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain, but I increasingly find weather forecasters about as reliable as astrologers or worse yet, political pollsters. So I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t rain at all. It was about 40 when I first arrived at Prospect Park at 8 AM, but the fierce, howling wind made it feel like the low 30s. I was conspicuously under-dressed(only shorts, and 2 shirts on), so before the race I was shivering and trying to warm myself up by juggling, which only helped a little.

I simply wanted to complete in less than 4 hours and I wasn’t optimistic about not dropping the balls due to the cold and wind. Last year at the Yonkers marathon I started out a little too fast and that may be why I injured myself. So when the race started I took it very slow for the first 2 miles; I didn’t mind looking like a juggling slug. After mile 2, channeling my inner vegan cheetah, I started picking up the pace, doing sub-8 minute miles until I got to mile 9. By then it was also a little warmer; I had no trouble with the cold air during this race except when the wind picked up.

The Brooklyn marathon isn’t especially hilly. The marathon is a series of loops around Prospect Park, and some parts are hilly, particularly the approach to the northern section. At first the hills didn’t slow me down that much, but after several miles of this my legs started to feel fatigued. I drank Gatorade for the first time at mile 7, and did this about every 2.5 miles. My pace after mile 10 gradually slowed down. After mile 20 I was doing 10, then 12 minute miles.

The crowd support was tremendous. Thank you so much people of Brooklyn, especially my fellow vegan Brooklynites! A lot of laughs, lots of cheering, and some people were very supportive of me because of the cause I represent. I finished in 4:16, which means my average pace was 9:47. This was my slowest marathon ever. My fastest marathon was in 3:40. At least I didn’t injure myself like I did last year(in spite of injuring myself I was faster then). This was my 3rd dropless marathon in a row. This means the majority of the marathons I’ve joggled have been dropless. Even I am astonished. Here’s the proof! Here I am at what I think may be mile 16. Thank you Denise! Ok, that’s less than 1% of the race, but it’s still something!

So why was I so slow? I think the cold weather and wind were partly responsible. And I also suspect I may have been overdoing it with the unicycling during training. Riding on a unicycle, especially backwards, isn’t a good way to improve marathon performance. Not that I was expecting it would help, but I shouldn’t have done so much backwards unicycling in the weeks leading up to this event. Though it wasn’t helpful, it sure is fun!

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Humane League and also those who’ve provided encouragement and training tips. Wishing everyone luck with their training, fund-raiding or whatever you’re doing.

So what’s next? Stay tuned!